What started as an idea over coffee has turned into a holiday success story for Lewes.
Over the last several weeks, thousands of people have driven through the town to view residents’ takes on holiday decorations and lights. In its first year, the event drew 141 homes and 55 businesses within the city limits to sign up, with an additional 38 homes outside the city registered too.
“The streets of Lewes are full of families and people of all ages enjoying the lights every night, especially on the weekends,” said co-organizer Debra Evalds. “Residents on the main thoroughfares of town are reporting steady traffic every night, and I am even seeing this on my quiet cul-de-sac street on the outskirts of the city. So many people are enjoying this free event, and the greatest thanks go to the incredible Lewes homeowners who gave of themselves this season by decorating their homes to bring joy and light to others. The joy is officially spread and the word is out that Lewes is the place to see this Christmas! I hope this is just the start of another great Lewes holiday tradition.”
Christian Mullins, who organized the event with Evalds, said the online map has been viewed more than 77,000 times since it went live in early December. On average, he said, the map has about 4,700 active sessions within the 19958 ZIP code each weekend.
“One of the best parts of Lewes Lights this year is meeting community members that want to be involved,” Mullins said. “Marcus Gromofsky, a Cape Henlopen High School student, was one of the first to reach out. Over the past few weeks, Marcus has worked long hours behind the scenes to improve what was once a static tour map. He is the sole visionary and creator of the three tour routes with live traffic reporting that Lewes visitors are using today. Marcus has inspired us to think about how modern technology can continue to improve the Lewes Lights tour experience for next year. Upon graduation, Marcus is planning on pursuing studies in civil engineering."
Hidden among the steady stream of cars slowly traveling through town were a handful of judges, quietly gathering information before making their final decisions on awardees for seven categories. The winners include:
Clark Griswold Award
The award for the most over-the-top property went to the homeowners at 2039 Savannah Circle in the Savannah Place community off Donovans Road. Apple Electric owners Lisa and Steve Prestipino, who know a thing or two about over-the-top decorations, were tasked with judging the category.
“2039 Savannah Circle quite possibly could be viewed from the moon,” they said. “Vivid cool colors mixed with the warm traditional colors canvassing trees, bushes, doors, windows, roof lines in numbers too high to count would warm not only the Grinch’s heart, but make Clark W. Griswold proud.”
Candles & Greens Award
The Candles & Greens Award was designed to celebrate homes that honor a colonial Christmas. Ralph Prettyman, Delaware history buff and author of “A History of Tower Hill,” was tapped to pick the winner – 147 Kings Highway.
“I really liked the simplicity yet elegance of the fruit and greenery used to decorate the window frames, and the garland around the entry door. Candles in the window with a couple of white spotlights highlighted the decorations. To me, this best fit the judging category,” Prettyman said.
Earning an honorable mention from Prettyman was the home at 130 Jefferson Ave.
It’s A Wonderful Life Award
David and June Edwards, creators and proprietors of the Edwards Christmas Village, said they struggled to pick a winner of the It’s A Wonderful Life Award, which was focused on homes that opted for a traditional style of decorating.
“We opted for simple but visual and chose 121 Kings Highway,” they said. “The home was simple, but had elements of trees, candy canes, bells and wreaths. Not over the top, but very pretty.”
The Edwards also noted two honorable mentions – 342 Pilottown Road and 119 E. Third St.
Leg Lamp Award
The Leg Lamp Award celebrated homes that chose to go with a vintage holiday theme. Drexel Davison of Bad Hair Day? Salon in Rehoboth Beach chose 9 DeVries Circle as the category’s winner after careful consideration.
“With creativity and simplicity, and with cohesive commitment to the concept, this representation of an era of Charles Dickens fills my heart with the old-fashioned classic holiday tradition,” said Davison.
The winning house featured backlit silhouettes of classic Christmas images on more than a half-dozen windows facing the street.
Making An Entrance Award
Dr. John Mahoney, a hospitality professor at Widener University, judged entries in the Making An Entrance category on overall presentation, design, suitability to site, and creativity and originality. The home that best captured all elements was 123 E. Third St.
“The eye is drawn immediately to the door frame and lights on garland and wreath,” he said. “Blue lights on the tree to the left of the door contrast nicely with garland lights and lights on the tree right of the door. Lights on the banister add a framing to the porch, as do the lights on the potted shrub on the walkway. White skates hung by the door on a red background add both a winter and holiday flair. A lighted tree in the second-floor window allows the eye to drift upward to see the house outline.”
Mahoney gave an honorable mention to the home at 16 Harborview Road.
Jingle Bell Lane Award
Madeleine Overturf, anchor for WRDE Coast TV, was given the arduous task of determining the most decorative street in Lewes. After a lot of consideration, she said, she chose Manila Avenue.
“To me, that street epitomized the Christmas spirit, because it exemplified community love,” she said. “From having our local supermarket decked up, to the biggest houses on the block having creative Grinch displays, to the smallest having some subtle but classy wreaths – every single structure had some sort of holiday display. It gave me the feeling that everyone was enthusiastic and excited as a community to bring the holiday cheer. I feel like Manila Avenue is a street where people know and love their neighbors, and that love and happiness, to me, is what Christmas is all about.”
Frozen, Frosty and Fun Award
More than 100 children in all third-grade classes at Shields Elementary voted on a kids’ choice award. The overwhelming winner was 372 Pilottown Road, which combined lights with music to create a fun and welcoming experience. Teacher Stacy Kotch-Jester said her class was very excited to help pick a winner. To give all children a chance to vote, Lewes Lights organizers made a slideshow. Children voted in their online classrooms.
“Their faces lit up when I told them that they were the ones who would get to choose the winner,” she said. “Even their family members came to the Zoom screen to see all of the entries. Many of the students recognized the houses that were presented, and they shared how cool the displays and lights were.”
Shields Principal Kimberly Corbidge said judging the entries will certainly be a highlight of the season for her school’s students.
"I am trying to do everything I can to make things as memorable as possible, and make our remote and in-person students feel like one family,” she said. “With the altering or cancellation of traditional events, we are always looking for positive things for the students to be involved in to help make the current times' uncertainty less scary. This event was a perfect way to add some fun and make them feel part of their community, whether they are in person or remote."
A map with all the homes participating can be found at leweslights.org. Organizers offer three routes to take, but spectators can also make up their own route. Lights will be on through at least Dec. 31, and the winners will be provided with ribbons to put on their home.